Earlier this summer, we blogged about the interplay between content and context in successful, and unsuccessful, marketing executions. We forwarded the notion that while content is definitely king, context is jurisdiction, and many times errors are more prevalent in matching content to context, rather than just bad content placed in the right contexts. In other words, the audience and the context in which they encounter a marketing message can have more impact on the effectiveness of the message than the quality of the message itself. A hyperbole of this effect is shown above – a QR code presented on a poster in a NYC subway station. The message is, arguably, just fine (depending on where you come down on QR codes). However, the context of the subway station, namely that it is almost always a dead-zone, seriously impacts the effectiveness of this marketing.
Most “context fails” are far more subtle than this though and QR codes aren’t always to blame. And now social media provides us with an increasingly fragmented and challenging array of contexts in which to make mistakes … uh, I mean, to engage the audience. Seriously though, the contexts of the audience in each channel are unique, and so content must be suitably crafted to engage the audience within these contexts. Questions that aim to map the desired audience’s behavior in each channel can often point the way to success. What does the audience typically do on the channel? In what frame of mind would a user typically be? What are they thinking and feeling? A user on LinkedIn is in a completely different state of mind than when she is on Instagram. We find that we can “toggle” easily and quickly between different contexts, in this case from professional life to personal, but content out of place is nonetheless very noticeable. Also, similarity in channel function does not mean that the contexts are also similar. For example, both Pinterest and Reddit are channels where users link to interesting content found on the web, but the communities are organized differently and the user expectations are very different. In fact, Pinterest has an entirely different context than Reddit. Brands will find a much easier time connecting to a consumer audience on Pinterest versus Reddit because the frame of mind of users on Pinterest is essentially consumer-oriented. And then there is Facebook, where the contexts of its users have changed substantially over time as Facebook has shifted its emphasis from being primarily a place to connect and share (or lurk?) with friends and family, to also be a place of local discovery and news consumption. Users come to Facebook with different sorts of expectations, primary of which seems to be simply wasting time, which apparently is at the expense of other important interests.
Confused? You are not alone. We see so many local businesses struggling with how to take advantage of these new audience channels, deciding in which to invest the time, and what messaging is appropriate. We can help. Times-Union Media has been in the business of creating engaging content for local audiences for 150 years! We are extremely passionate about this stuff, and we would love to take on your content and context challenges. It’s what we do. Challenge accepted.